International Women’s Day is a globally-recognised day celebrated every year on 8th March; the focus of the day’s celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements. The day and the culmination of it has a long history that spans over 100 years since 1909 when the first National Women’s Day was observed in the USA, and many other nations held their own days in the following years, but was not observed internationally as a popular event until 1977 after a gathering of the United Nations. The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2013 is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women” and theme is “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum”. Coincidentally, International Women’s Day is close to Mother’s Day in many countries, which takes place on 10th March this year.
To mark International Women’s Day, especially for all our LBT (lesbian, bisexual and trans women) fans, we have compiled a list of ten of our favourite female empowerment anthems from over the years from some of the biggest divas in the music industry, many of whom have spoken out about women’s rights and supported the feminist movement and are popular gay icons in today’s music culture. Check them out below:
10) P!nk – Stupid Girls
P!nk’s “Stupid Girls” was written about her despair with some girls’ ambitions and the way modern society, the media, popular culture and celebrities have influenced many women to have no drive for a real career, to objectify or dehumanise themselves or to act or look a certain way.
9) Shania Twain – Man! I Feel Like A Woman!
“Man! I Feel Like Woman!” is about Shania expressing herself in different ways yet still managing to feel free, feminine and womanly, even when acting or dressing like a man. The song and video appears to challenge role reversals and the historical and stereotypical idea of what women should or should not wear (skirts and dresses, not shorts or trousers), yet Shania says you can still be, look and feel like a woman when doing so.
8) Cher – Woman’s World
Cher’s latest comeback song – which is not released until later this year, but was previewed late last year – is about bouncing back from a broken relationship, and is very reminiscent of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, but overall sounds like the female version of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World”. Ultimately the song moves on from talking about a breakup to female empowerment about being able to overcome and do anything and everything.
7) Aretha Franklin – Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
Many consider a lot of Aretha Franklin songs such as “Respect” and “Think” to be strong female empowerment anthems, but “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”, although lesser known, should not be overlooked. The song contrasts the power of temptation and rewards of fidelity and urges men to respect women as their equals and not follow the then-common belief that it is “a man’s world” by using or abusing them, as well asking men to be loyal, responsible, and sexually expressive.
6) Destiny’s Child – Independent Women (Part I)
A lot of Destiny’s Child songs can be seen as anthems for women, but none more so than “Independent Women”, which talks about relationships between men and women and how even though being in one can be seen as an opportunity for some men to oppress and control their lady, these women won’t be and believe in a 50/50 relationship. The song also talks about although they are in relationship, ladies are able to fund and fend for themselves without the need for their man’s money.
5) Madonna – Express Yourself
Madonna was quoted in the book “Madonna ‘talking’: Madonna in Her Own Words” as saying “Express Yourself” is one of female empowerment, urging women never to “go for second-best.” She also added that “the ultimate thing behind the song is that if you don’t express yourself, if you don’t say what you want, then you’re not going to get it. And in effect you are chained down by your inability to say what you feel or go after what you want.”
4) Alicia Keys – Superwoman
“Superwoman” is about a woman who is able to stand above all her problems and still continue living her life every day and in particular talks about women who have become successful and famous through their hard work, including working and/or single mothers.
3) Chaka Khan/Whitney Houston – I’m Every Woman
This iconic song, first recorded by Chaka Khan and then Whitney Houston – both of whom had a hit with their versions, is about a strong woman who takes very good care of her man, supporting him and making him a better person. While some feminists may argue that living to “serve” a man in such a way is oppressive, this song appears to be about women who are willing to and want to do so, rather than feel like they have to.
2) Christina Aguilera, ft. Lil’ Kim – Can’t Hold Us Down
This song challenges the double standards in today’s society, particularly when it comes to sex, with Christina Aguilera – known for her feminist attitude – saying that while men can do or say what they want, women are slated for doing the same thing, whether it be sleeping around, not wearing many clothes or even just speaking one’s mind. Aguilera also lets people know that she does not appreciate being called a bitch simply because she stands up for herself and is a strong woman.
1) Annie Lennox/The Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin – Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves
Probably the most obvious choice for a top female empowerment anthem, but definitely a good one, “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” sees two of the most successful and feminist women in music, Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin come together to sing this song. Women are the most extraordinary force in the world. In an interview, Annie Lennox said of the song: “There is such a strong need for feminism, particularly in developing countries where women are still relegated to third class citizen status – where they don’t have choices about their fertility, education and life choices. I’m very grateful for the things that feminism has offered me. I can vote in a democratic system. Women and men are trying to progress together, but women very often carry the brunt of the burden in life. Actually, I do like to take the opportunity to speak up for women’s rights.”